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The Who smash on the
ultimate rock scrapbook

The Who
The Kids Are Alright (Pioneer)
Director: Jeff Stein

By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor

“My friends call me Keith; you can call me John.”

And soon after that introduction, a pre-recorded,
mimed run-through of “My Generation,” typical for that
time period, was underway with the Who pretending to
bash away at their instruments. Mr. Keith Moon,
however, decided that just pretending to play (he never
seriously mimed his drum parts anyway) wouldn’t be
enough, so he loaded up his bass drum with some
dynamite. You know, for kicks.

One explosion and an exasperated Tommy Smothers
later, and you have one of the more infamous music
on television moments in history and the beginning of
The Kids Are Alright, the ultimate rock n’ roll scrapbook of what could easily be the best live band rock has ever
seen.

Jeff Stein’s document of the Who has been both maligned and worshipped since it was released in 1979.
Critics have called it disjointed and unorganized, while fans have declared it a perfect series of Who snapshots.
They’re both right, but where the critics have it wrong is that it’s a benefit to this film that it’s disjointed. The Who
were reckless on stage — they could move from pop perfection (ex., “Substitute”) to reckless abandon (“Sparks”)
to an absolute rock apex (“Won’t Get Fooled Again”) seamlessly. So why not make their filmed history just as
reckless and unpredictable?

There are number of excellent moments in this movie from the band. Ripping each others clothes to shreds on
Russel Harty’s program, watching Keith be whipped by a dominatrix while being interviewed and John Entwistle
practicing skeet-shooting with Roger Daltrey’s gold records are priceless. Pete Townshend’s comments on his
stage demeanor (just before a thrashing version of “Sparks” from Woodstock) aren’t just entertaining, they’re
enlightening:

“When I’m on stage, let me try to explain, when I’m on stage, I’m not in control of myself at all. I don’t even know
who I am. I’m not this rational person who can sit here now and talk to you. If you walked on the stage with a
microphone in the middle of a concert I’d probably come close to killing you — I have come close to killing
people who’ve walked onstage. …

“I’m, I’m just not there. It’s not like being possessed, it’s just…I do my job. And I know that I have to get in a
certain state of mind to do it.”

And do it he does. While the funny moments are great, what really makes this DVD so killer is the music inside.
Tearing versions of “Baba O’Riley,” “Young Man Blues,” “Roadrunner” and the definitive take of “Won’t Get Fooled
Again” are what take this movie from memorable to legendary. And perhaps that’s true of the band themselves
— if they had just been good at smashing up equipment and nothing else, they really wouldn’t be more than a
footnote in music history, probably listed somewhere between Loverboy and the Troggs.

Of course, for Who fanatics there’s more to augment the music on this 2003- released double-disc. The picture,
first off, looks amazing and the soundtrack sounds much better than on any VHS copy. “A Quick One While He’s
Away” has been restored to its full version. The second disc is loaded with multiple camera angles for “Baba O’
Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” interviews, a documentary of the restoration and bass-only takes for
Entwistle admirers.

In short, many re-releases fall short — because they’re loaded with extras that don’t matter, or they forgot to
remaster the soundtrack, or because they did nothing to change the damn thing save for a shiny new box. This is
not the case for
The Kids Are Alright. Everyone involved with this project, which took over a year to prepare for
DVD, hit the nail on the head, creating the perfect time capsule for the Who of the Keith Moon era. Even the FBI
warning rocks (you’ll see what I mean).

This film isn’t just for Who fanatics, it’s for anyone who’s ever been slightly interested in music outside of Vivaldi.
Music fans, faithful readers, you owe it to yourself to seek this movie out for yourself if you haven’t already yet.

And for those of you that have? Pop it in again. It never disappoints.
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